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MSUM staff awaits budget cut details

President Edna Szymanski said she's "guardedly optimistic" about whether MSUM will need to lay off employees. (Forum file photo)

MOORHEAD - Employees of Minnesota State University Moorhead will learn Tuesday what cuts will be necessary to fill a $9 million budget deficit.

President Edna Szymanski said she's "guardedly optimistic" about whether MSUM will need to lay off employees.

Two policies approved Wednesday by the university system's board of trustees will give MSUM additional tools to balance the budget, Szymanski said.

MSUM will offer early retirement incentives to more employees under a program approved by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system board.

MSUM already offered incentives to members of two labor unions, resulting in 10 retirements, said Jean Hollaar, budget director.

With the new program, Szymanski will be able to target classifications of workers within all nine labor unions to offer the early separation agreements.

The details are still being worked out. Szymanski said she hopes to tell employees during town hall meetings Tuesday some general parameters about the incentives.

MSUM has about $2 million to $3 million in federal stimulus money and other one-time dollars to pay for the incentives, Hollaar said.

Also Wednesday, the board approved a new tuition structure for MSUM called "banded tuition."

It means students will pay the same tuition rate between 12 and 19 credits.

The goal is to get students to take more classes so they graduate sooner and leave college with less debt, Szymanski said.

The new model also stabilizes the tuition revenue MSUM receives, she said.

On average, tuition at Minnesota state universities will increase 5 percent next year, but federal stimulus dollars will cover 2 percent of the increase.

The increase MSUM students will see varies depending on how many credits they take.

Some students could see their bills decrease, while others could pay significantly more for the same number of credits they took last year.

For example, a student taking 18 credits would pay about 7 percent less than a student taking 18 credits paid last year.

But students taking 12 credits will pay nearly 32 percent more than they would have last year, according to numbers provided by Hollaar.

Szymanski said officials plan to talk to students who are taking 12 credits and encourage them to take more at the same price.

With those policies approved, Szymanski plans to finalize the budget numbers this week and talk details with employees next week.

"We'll be able to do this together and preserve both excellence and affordability for our students," Szymanski said.